Monday, July 21, 2008

EQII In-Game Help System

One of the changes rolling out with GU47 is an overhaul of the in-game help system. This was one of those pet-projects that I wanted to do, but wasn't on the schedule so most of the work was done outside of my workday.

The help window was modified to use our integrated Mozilla browser and all of the existing help files were converted to HTML. I went through all of the help files and updated any content that was out-of-date to the best of my knowledge. This update also includes the new integrated voice chat, so a new section was added to cover this feature.

One of the other things I've wanted to do for awhile is add context-sensitive help buttons to most of the game windows. So, all of the major UI windows now have a help button in the upper-right corner next to the "close" and "window settings" buttons. This button opens the help window and takes you directly to the topic related to that window.

The other challenge was that every game window didn't already have a help topic that specifically addressed how to use that window. Rather than having some windows link to existing topics and others link to new topics, I created a whole new section under "User Interface" called "Game Windows". This topic is like an index to every window in the game that has context-sensitive help. Where it made sense, I moved existing help content related to game windows to these new topics.

The new HTML-based help looks a lot better than the old text help, and now we have the ability to include images, screen-shots, etc. Originally I was going to try to add more visual elements to the help topics, but just reading and updated all the existing help text took a lot more time than I expected. For now, I think this is a great change to the help system, it looks good and the content is now up-to-date. With the new context-sensitive help buttons on the windows, it should be even easier to get help on specific features. In the future I still hope to go back and make the help topics even more visually appealing.